Israel’s Herding Dog

The average person with an above-average knowledge of dogs may know that the ancient Canaan Dog of Israel survived on its own in the Negev Desert after Israelites were dispersed by invading Romans in 70 B.C. Ancestors of the breed were separated from their owners and flock, and survived by living in the dessert. Dogs that weren’t collected by Bedouin tribes to serve as guard dogs were thought to have become feral.

If the average person is really into purebred dogs, they’ll know that re-domestication for the breed started in 1934 when Professor Rudolphina Menzel was asked by the Haganah (the forerunner of today’s dog-handling Oketz unit in the Israel Defense Forces) to supply dogs to work with them. When other breeds failed to cope with the harsh desert environment, Prof. Menzel was inspired to investigate the wild dogs she’d seen in the desert.

This post is about the Canaan Dog as a herding dog. Indeed, the breed worked as a herder for the Israelites 2,000 years ago, and for that reason, not many breeds can assert as pure a working heritage as the Canaan Dog. Its working style was very much shaped by its desert environment. The Sebulon Coastal Plain didn’t have fencing, and that made it easy, if not likely, for a cow, goat, or sheep to wander off from its herd or flock. The desert was where anyone –  or anything – could be a threat.

For this reason, Canaani (the plural of Canaan) could be distracted by the environment when he was charged with 200-300 head. This called for an upright, loose eyed dog that could see “everything” pertinent to his job to protect and move his charges. S/he mostly exhibited fetching behavior, often exhibiting close work without causing excessive fear in the stock. Occasionally, there might be a bit of “gripping” when necessary, but the dogs were usually silent, and if necessary, would utter a “force growl” when called upon.

Because the Canaan Dog has proved itself to be capable in a variety of tasks that call for intelligence, dependability, and obedience,  the breed today fills many roles outside of herding work that includes guide dog work for the blind and K-9 work for the Israeli army. We just wanted to underscore the breed’s original task as a herding dog for anyone outside the dog fancy who may be puzzled by why the breed is in the AKC’s Herding Group.

For good information about this breed as a herding dog, look here.

Image: Israel Kennel Club’s logo features the Canaan Dog

4 thoughts on “Israel’s Herding Dog”

  1. So sorry that Authority in Egypt say they are stray Dogs and killing a lot of them . We do our best to save them I mailed even the Presedint
    ThT is his media office

    media,office8@op.gov.eg
    No body replay 🙁
    I saved two and they are my best loyal dogs

  2. What rubbish! Clearly written by someone with below average knowledge of these dogs, the middle east, Bedouin and how these dogs were used. The pariahs that were used to establish Canaan dogs were and still are found in the whole middle east long before the time of the Israeli move from Egypt. There is no evidence that they were ever used to herd. Yes they are used with Bedouin herds but as watch dogs and are not used to herd. Even Myrna Shiboleth has admitted that when they first started breeding them in Israel no one would buy them because they were known as Arab dogs. Hence the concocted story of them being Israeli. The oldest known rock carvings of dogs anywhere in the world show dogs of this type with hunters well before the time of Moses and in Saudi Arabia.

    • Don’t hold back, Duncan. What do you really think? A flip reply to your comment which we welcomed as it expands the topic. We gleaned our information from a variety of sources and are interested in where you got your information so that we might all benefit. The post is not etched in stone, and we are happy to amend and update when appropriate.

  3. What rubbish! clearly written by someone with below average knowledge of these dogs. There is no evidence that these dogs have ever been used to herd. Yes Bedouin use them with their herds but as watch dogs and they are never used to herd the flock. Even Myrna Shiboleth has admitted that when they first caught a few and started breeding them Israelis did not want them because they were known as Arab dogs. in order to sell them the Israeli story was concocted. These dogs were in the whole middle east and Arabian peninsula long before the time of Moses. The oldest known carvings in the world that depict these dogs, with man, and before man learned to grow crops, is in Saudi Arabia.

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